Case Study: How the Arab Film Festival Increased its Individual Donors by 540%

Arab Film Festival Case Study

Case Study: How the Arab Film Festival Increased its Individual Donors by 540%

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I came on board the Arab Film Festival at the beginning of 2016 as Marketing Director to help increase visibility and festival attendance.  The Arab Film Festival is a small non-profit with limited resources and a big mission. As a 20-year old organization it has a small but loyal following, and there are always more things to do than hands on deck. Our challenge then was to grow and implement effective marketing strategy without a big budget or team. On top of that, we live in a time of peak Islamophobia and anti Arab sentiment, both making it hard to receive support and equally urgent to connect with the larger community.

If you find yourself in the same situation, here are the three steps you can take to grow your organization long term, no matter how small.

Arab Film Festival Case Study

Market for Long Term Goals

The Arab Film Festival takes place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego in October-November each year. I spent the first few months of the year learning about and getting in tune with our followers. Deep psychology is one of the main pillars of all my marketing strategy, and it takes time. It took me six months to feel in sync with our community, enough that I could develop content and activities based on empathy and interconnection. Most organizations focus on short term marketing tactics to increase sales immediately, without deeply understanding their customers’ psychology. Don’t skip the initial research, don’t jump to conclusions, don’t assume you know your audience, and above all, do budget for the long process of discovery. Take your time at the beginning to stay in business for the long run.

Thanks to upfronting the work, the Arab Film Festival sold 7 times more festival tickets during the first two days tickets went on sale, compared to the same period the previous year.

Focus on Quality, not Quantity, on Social Media

Everybody knows that Facebook changed its algorithm to show posts to only 5-10% of Facebook business pages’ fans. This is because Facebook wants people to enjoy their experience on the platform, and knows that most of us do not want to see endless commercial posts with little relevance to our life (and it also wants to sell ads). But few focus on the fact that the same algorithm also helps organizations that focus on quality content, instead of quantity and gimmicks. Because I spent time truly understanding and learning what mattered the most to our Facebook fans, we consistently post content that Facebook shows organically to 40% or more of our page fans, sometimes surpassing 100%. Without spending a penny.

You can achieve the same results by applying what you learn in your research to your social media marketing: don’t worry about posting a lot and getting a ton of followers. Focus instead on connecting to the people who share your values and on helping them as needed.

Develop Original Content

I am a huge fan of content marketing. I love companies and individuals who share their knowledge online, and enjoy reading clever takes on topics I am interested in. If you love Arab Cinema, you’ll notice right away that there isn’t much out there about it. This is why we transformed the Arab Film Festival blog into a content force to keep you up to date with the best of Arab film. I was lucky to welcome on board Yasmina Tawil as our blog editor, who helps us tackle content such as filmmakers’ interviews and festival highlights, to the latest news in Arab cinema.

For mission-driven organizations, truly helpful and engaging content marketing is key to long term brand loyalty and engagement. Sharing your own content on social media beats memes and builds thought leadership.

How the Arab Film Festival Increased Donors 5 times

The Bottom Line

If you have a small business or non profit, you have to choose a few tactics, and devote your time to them on a consistent basis. Invest time at the beginning to research and truly understand your audience.  By focusing your efforts, you’ll be able to achieve truly amazing results.

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